Last night I was propping my eyes open after having two hours sleep and being called to a birth.
The birth, as all births do, taught me something yet again. It reinforced in me the fact that no one is in charge of anything when it comes to birth. It taught me that we can help women prepare and understand things, but ultimately, birth will do what birth does best and will be unpredictable.
My mama was around 39 weeks (but who's counting?) when she rang to say she had some leaking that wasn't really stopping. Three weeks later I finally got the call to say that her waters had fully gone with somewhat of a pop and contractions were picking up.
From past experiences and the fact her first birth was only 14 hours and straightforward, I'd got it into my head that this birth would be fast. So much so, that I was actually concerned I may not even make it.
It was a humbling thing to discover that second births are not always fast or around half the length of time of the first. I learned that you can never predict anything in birth.
Outward signs mean different things for different women and different births. I also feel even stronger about the connection between psychological needs impacting on the birthing process. As I watched her contract I visually saw her retract into herself as if she was scared to let go.
She laboured so calmly and beautifully,rhythmically rocking and blowing and making ripples on the water of the pool but when she felt the desire to bear down, she appeared to try to pull upwards. What was her brain telling her? What was worrying her?
For some women, there are things within the course of their journey to becoming a mama, for the first time or subsequently that can impact on their release of their baby. Perhaps this mother is fearful that she may pass a stool? Perhaps as a mother bringing a sibling into the world, she's scared about her ability to parent two or her relationship with her firstborn and how that may change now? Maybe there is a reason as to why she's scared that comes from her first birth, an episiotomy or forceps story that needs to be told during pre natal visits.
Ina May mentions this a couple of times in her book Spiritual Midwifery. One of her women appeared to stall at 7-8cms and eventually it was discovered that she was fearful that her husband might leave her (he was at her side) as their marriage was not "official" in her eyes. The marriage was officiated there and then on the spot and this appeared to be the bridge required for the woman to "allow" herself to release her baby.
It's not an uncommon phenomenon. There are reports of animals in the wild doing this, where there is the threat of danger or a predator close by, if a mother is close to birthing her baby, she will, in fact, close up again to ensure that her body keeps the unborn safe until danger has passed.
A midwife friend of mine has a couple of female cats. Last year, one of them, heavily pregnant, made a nest for her impending birth. The other cat (non-pregnant) destroyed the nest (yeah, jealousy - let's save that psychological mess for another time!). The pregnant one tried again, in a different place. Repeat!
Finally two days after she'd made the first nest she managed to give birth at the bottom of a sleeping bag where the other cat couldn't find her. Her body held her kittens in until time was safe.
It's not a rare occurrence that you read that a mother whose partner is away or whose preferred midwife is not on call or an older child has a birthday, waits until all these things are rectified and satisfactorily "put to bed" before she "allows" her body to open up.
It all just reiterates "sphincter law". The cervix is a sphincter, just like the anus, the ileocolic, uretheral, pyloric and cardiac sphincters. If under stress or duress, they shut down and don't relax and open. It's a simple flight or fight response.
I had talked at length with my mama, and it revealed nothing glaringly obvious. However, having been taken on rather late in the game (at 37 weeks) as they'd made more of an late decision to use a doula, I think I missed this whole "why we're having a doula" thing that "may" have been the reason things were slow. Often a woman taking on a doula for a second birth after not using one for a first has an agenda. Why does she need a doula this time if she didn't have one the first time? She has a need there, often something that she maybe wishes to avoid or not repeat. I knew her first birth story, what I didn't know though or really manage to explore was how she'd felt, emotionally, through her first birth. It wasn't a birth that happened in the UK and was a rather "over managed" affair. In hindsight I think that much of it she felt like a "specimen" on a slab. In hindsight, each time she was "on the bed" (despite asking to get on the bed herself) she clamped down. Once we got her onto the beanbag in a small, intimate corner of the room, she gave herself permission to release.
I also wonder how much an impact having growth scans and being referred because two separate parties on two separate occasions couldn't agree on the size of the baby, had affected her. With her first son born at around 39 weeks at 6lbs, I wonder if she was fearing that this new baby, who came at roughly 41 weeks was now going to be gargantous? She had already told me a couple of times during pre natals, that a baby puts on an oz a day.
What a wonderful thing hindsight is and what a wonderful thing being able to be a reflective practitioner is. What a wonderful job I have and will do that allows me to sit and listen to women and what a wonderful job to be in that surprises me everytime and keeps me humble to the power of women and the power of nature.
My next birth is going to be one of the most special and important events of my doula career and days of my life as a friend. My next birth will be as the doula for my dear friend, Emma, who has allowed me to be there to witness this - in return for a hand hold or two ;-) I feel so honoured for this opportunity and blessed that we managed to rekindle this friendship after nearly 20 years of being out of touch.
This brings me to the topic that I was going to blog about today, before getting all birthy on you again and that is friends.
This week has been an emotional bag due to feeling particularly vulnerable at the moment with Mr Beehive still working up in Edinburgh and there not being any set signs as to this ending at the moment and me feeling under the weather with a cold.
On Tuesday I did, what I never normally do (aren't I good *polishing halo) and earned my "mummy of the year" badge by taking my kids out of school to go to Legoland! It's an educational experience! We wouldn't normally do that except that some friends of ours from the US were here, quite literally for three days and we wanted to spend time with them, having not seen them for two!
There were tears and hugs and laughter and OMG, the chatter and noise!!! Laurie and I were unable to let go when we saw each other and the kids (we both have three and they're all around the same age) well, it was as if they had never left.
Amazingly, life, two years, two countries and yet there is nothing there that made it hard or awkward.
Last night, on two hours sleep, Laurie and I snuck away (thanks Magda!) to the pub for a quick dinner and pint of something "reddish with a good head" (L's description of a good english ale- honest guv!) which dissolved into raucous laughter in the corner, a wonderful meal and reminiscence...in particular of a wonderful few days that we spent together at the Cape early in our friendship where after dinner one evening (the kids were at home with a sitter), Laurie took me on a tour of P'town and we ended up bonding over dildos in the porn shop!!! Apparently she's been worrying for the last couple of years that this was not a great way to develop a friendship and the fact that we are both on the extreme end of the "crap-o-meter" when it comes to telephoning or Skyping meaning that she was unsure if I was mentally scarred and ignoring her. Her only fault there is that she doesn't know me well enough...sadly. Our vow to each other is to remedy this and this also needs, therefore, for us to have a repeat performance and return to the Cape next summer to further develop our friendship and knowledge on P'town's extensive range of manacles and chocolate body paint (not on each other though I hasten to add!!)
So, true friends really are amazing people. People who allow you to attend their births and who you can discuss dildos with over a pint of something "red with a head" and a bowl of faggots (yes, I forgot to throw that in, my local pub has them on the menu in a tomato sauce - apparently v. yummy!)
Both these friends are ones who I don't see often, sadly, due to distance primarily, but both these amazing women are such huge parts of who I am.
My friends make me smile, cry, laugh until I nearly pee my pants. We can pick up where we left off. We can know that the other is okay with no more contact than a text or email message, but then spend hours over dinner or in the rain over a flacid sandwich at a theme park, putting the world to right and finishing each others' sentences. Two more friends sent me a message last week when I was feeling particularly down after a disparaging week of mishaps and lack of husband, to say they were coming to see me. They had decided amongst themselves to arrange to come. I cannot say what that sentiment did for my week. Tonight my best friend arrives with her hubby and two kids. They're here for the weekend and we're going to the local version of Glasto on Saturday. This friend has seen me through thick and thin...provided boxes (with holes in) for me to puke in at age 17, cleared up and covered for me when I've done things I shouldn't, slammed doors in my face when I've pissed her off and been on the front row for all the concerts I've played in. She (along with all my beautiful friends) supports what I do, doesn't mind when I use the words vagina and placenta in dinnertime conversation, looks after my children when she thinks i need a break. She tells me when she thinks I'm a knob and gives me a hug when she's listened to me rant and cry. She's seen the boyfriends come and go, walked with me down the aisle and was the first person to hold her first nephew. She's seen me at my very best and my very worst. Our friendship is unconditional.
Friends are truly amazing people and I am so blessed.
Today tell your friends how much you truly love them.
Have a happy weekend x